Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Wednesday: The newest beginning

With my book THE SETTING EARTH, Stephanie suggested that I start with an action scene. For this book I was perplexed as to how to do that as it was a build-up to an all out war between Earth and the rest of the Solar System. It took a few times reading through it but I think I have a scene that nicely sets up the conflict and later shows the change of the main character's views.


“The fate of humanity rests in your hands.” Isabella told Sam.

Sam watched as the giant laser beam reacted with the Earth’s ionosphere creating the greatest show of Aurora Borealis ever seen. The northern lights show was then overpowered as the beam hit the upper atmosphere with temperatures hot enough to split the water molecules into Hydrogen and Oxygen, the compression wave that formed, as the beam that was hotter than the sun heated the atmosphere, caused the hydrogen atoms to collide with each other with enough force to fuse together forming a secondary fusion reaction.

As impressive as that light show was, it paled to the horror of the beam hitting Earth. It hit the top of the Empire State Building and the 200-foot pinnacle was gone in a flash; the beam melted the inner core of the 250-year-old building causing it to collapse in on itself.

The beam continued west taking out city blocks as it went, old or new buildings made no difference to the beam it destroyed both with equal ease. It continued until it hit the tallest building in the world, The Lunar Mining Consortium headquarters. Sam felt a sense of horror as it took out the plaza that he had walked through that morning.

The laser hit the walls of the 3-mile tall building and the engineer in Sam had to wonder how the Buckpaper walls that were 5,000 times as strong as steel would hold against this ultimate destructive force.

Sam never got the answer as Isabella turned off the simulation before it could get to the room they were sitting in at the top floor of the Lunar Mining Consortium headquarters.

“That is what you must save the Earth from.” Isabella, the Chief Executive Officer of the all-powerful Lunar Mining Consortium, told him.

“I’m just a mid-level engineer,” Sam said, “How can I stop something like that?”

“I’ll let Admiral Hanson fill you in.” Isabella gestured at the other man in her office.

“Thank you, Isabella.” Admiral Hanson told her and addressed Sam, “The Ganymede government has set-up a colony on the Dwarf Planet Ceres. According to their geology reports Ceres may have the richest deposits of Helium3 in the inner solar system, dwarfing even that of Earth’s moon. Helium3 is the necessary element for our fusion reactors, the source of power for our modern life. Having Ganymede controlling this second supply of Helium3 they could position themselves to challenge Earth’s domination of the inner solar system.

“They recently unveiled a plan to send not only Helium3 to Mars but huge supplies of metals and other resources. They claim they will do this by sending small asteroids from the asteroid belt into orbit around Mars.

“Naturally we don’t believe that is their true intention, we believe it is a cover story to hide the fact that they are building a large weapon on the Ceres, the very weapon that we showed you a simulation of. We have attempted to get the plans for this weapon but our spies have been blocked at every turn.

“We were ready to send a fleet of warships to Ganymede to demand that they allow us to inspect the project, even at risk of an all out war, when out of the blue they contacted the Lunar Mining Consortium asking for an engineer for the project.

“We seized on this opportunity to get someone inside the operation and sent them a list of engineers that also work for Earth Intelligence, they rejected them all. We then sent them a list of qualified engineers and they selected you.”

“I’m flattered.” Sam said, “But you must have mentioned that I’ve never left Earth. I’m not sure I can work in an off world environment.”

“It’s your brain they are interested in not your body.” Isabella told him, “We already send them plenty of lesser people for the menial tasks.”

“Thank you Isabella,” the Admiral continued, “You are the only way we can get the information we need without risking war.”

“I can look over the diagrams they will need to give me and tell you how their weapon will be used. If that’s what you want.” Sam told them confidently, if there was one thing he could do was figure out the properties of a new piece of equipment. It sounded like fun. “I don’t believe the reports that say they are 10 years ahead of us in laser engineering.”

“Believe them,” the Admiral said firmly, “The people of Earth might still out number all the colonies in the solar system 100 to 1 but they have invested all their resources into advancing science and engineering.”

“Still we believe you can easily work on their level.” Isabella told him, “Your superiors feel you are a gifted engineer.”

“Isabella is right as always,” the Admiral agreed, “It’s not the level of science that is going to be your obstacle of this mission. They will undoubtedly give you information on a need to know basis. Any information they give you won’t show their real intentions. You will need to gain the trust of the other engineers on the project and steal the plans for the entire project. Only then can we be sure that Earth will be safe from the Ganymede menace.”

“The company is prepared to reward you handsomely when you succeed.” Isabella told him, “Naturally you’ll get a promotion and a raise, but we can also give you something a little more personal. Your wife was transferred to be a clerk in London two years ago wasn’t she?”

“Yes Ma’am, the family must be prepared to sacrifice for the company.” Sam parroted the oath he and his wife took when they started working for the Lunar Mining Consortium, “We see each other on Christmas and when we can get a five day vacation.”

“We could easily have her transferred to work in Los Alamos with you.” Isabella smiled, “Close enough for you to live in the same house.”

Sam thought about what that would mean, he had only lived with his wife for 6 months before her transfer and they got along well enough but they didn’t get married for each others company. Promotions went to married employees first and Sam needed a wife to advance, the sex was just an added benefit. Having her back in town mean he wouldn’t have to schedule times to fly out to see her to have sex, but it also would mean she would be living with her and after two years of only seeing her briefly he wasn’t sure how well they would get along on a permanent basis. Still it would mean having sex more than a few times a year.

“Thank you,” he told Isabella, “I’ll try my best.”

“Remember gain their trust, but don’t lose sight of your mission.” The Admiral said.

“I can’t stress how important this mission is.” Isabella told him, “Our very way of life depends on your actions on Ceres. As Winston Churchill said, ‘Victory at all costs, for without victory, there is no survival.’ Remember that while you deal with the engineers on Ceres.”

“Your shuttle to Ceres leaves in two weeks,” the Admiral told him, “We will spend that time training you for your new role. We wish we had more time but as the old saying goes, time and orbital mechanics wait for no man.”


Stephanie Barr said...

Not what I had in mind when I thought "action." :)

I'm sorry, this still isn't working for me for a number of reasons, including the overt agenda, the highly implausible setup with "the enemy" (with no apparent logic - I assume it's actually there, but it's a large pill to swallow with nothing to drink it down), a passive protagonist with no apparent redeeming qualities, a society that doesn't seem worth saving, and a hackneyed premise (which hackneyed is fine if you can make it compelling).

In my opinion, you've tried to cram too much into this first chapter, so it comes across as clumsy and convoluted, not the foot I'd recommend starting with.

That isn't to say the story can't work, or might not work for someone else, but I wouldn't be tempted to read further. A spy novel addressing interstellar rivals is a fine idea and science heavy writing has a following, but the science and plot has to make sense. I suspect there is sense to this, knowing you, but it's not coming through to me.

Perhaps, you'd do better to explain less rather than more. I mean, they aren't going to tell this mid-level engineer more than they need to. I suspect you'd do well to do the same for the reader and let him put the pieces together as Sam does.

I can send more detailed comments through email.

The word verification is lascrubr. For some reason, that amused me.

Project Savior said...

I'd love to hear them. Thanks.